LEONARD MONDAMA, one of two men charged with the murder of Canon Rodney Hunter in Lake Malawi in November 2006, was summoned at 12 hours’ notice to a hearing at the High Court in Lilongwe on Wednesday.
Canon Hunter, a former USPG missionary, was found dead at his home. A twice-suspended priest, the Revd Denis Kayamba, accused Mr Mondama, his cook, and Bernard Mlota, a churchwarden, of murdering him. The two were arrested on the word of Mr Kayamba, who is imminently due to appear before an ecclesiastical court himself on a number of unrelated charges. Bernard Mlota, the other accused, was bailed, and died last year before his case could be heard.
Malawi has a huge backlog of homicide cases stretching back several years. Mr Mondama was imprisoned for 18 months before Charles Kasambara, director of the Centre of Legal Assistance, and a lawyer for Amnesty International, secured bail.
Pressure for bail came from a number of sources. Bishop Michael Doe, general secretary of USPG, told the Church Times in November 2007: “When I visited him in Nkhotaka prison last month, he had been there for nearly a year, but contrary to Malawi law, still not charged.
“He is in terrible conditions, dependent on his wife and family to bring him food, and with no legal aid. USPG has written to the High Commission demanding he is either charged or released.”
Lawyers for Mr Mondama, who had to travel 200 km overnight to Lilongwe, were alerted and arrived at the eleventh hour on Wednesday morning. They had had no notice of the court case and are expected to ask for time to prepare a defence, since no one has seen the prosecution case or the alleged evidence.
Canon Hunter’s nephew Mark, who believes his uncle was poisoned, took the platform at a Forward in Faith assembly in London in October 2007 publicly to accuse “supporters” of the Revd Nicholas Henderson, unconfirmed Bishop of Lake Malawi, of contriving to kill him (News, 16 November 2007). Copies of a Times article headlined “Enemy of liberal Anglican was poisoned” were placed on every seat at Canon Hunter’s requiem.
Mr Henderson said on Wednesday: “There is a tragedy in the making here which has not been helped by some unfortunate English press reporting. Personally I think Mondama is innocent and I am shocked that it has come to this. There is a profound irony here that Mondama was such a loyal and outspoken supporter of the late Canon Hunter.”
As the Church Times went to press, it was reported that when Mr Mondama arrived at court he could not believe his good fortune that Charles Kasambara had managed to get two young lawyers to the court in time for 8 a.m. Denis Kayamba did not expect him to have representation and arrived only with some friends. The judge said that Mr Kayamba would have to find a lawyer, and adjourned the case indefinitely.